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    Entries in workshop (12)


    Break some patterns.


    When you next plan an all-staff meeting, a conference, workshop, strategy session or meeting ... break some patterns.

    The way it’s being done is dull. Starting at 9am; morning tea at 10.30am. Dull side decks from leaders trying to get ‘alignment’ and ‘buy-in’.

    It’s too much presentation, not enough conversation; all monologue, not enough dialogue.

    Darkened theatres and vanilla communications. We are done with it.

    Open the blinds! Ask some questions. Break the routines and expectations that you think are the ‘right way’ to do things.

    The people you serve - not the ‘resources’ or ‘numbers’ or ‘head count’ - the people will thank you for it. 


    More than Post-it Notes & Sharpies

    Let us give thanks... let us give respect, thanks and acknowledgement to two awesome and life changing tools :

    • The Post-it Note (Well, anything Post-it really, brilliant)
    • The Sharpie (In fact any marker. They're super too).

    Used together, they are life changing, team changing and world changing tools.

    So now that we've given thanks to them, we must realise that they alone (or together) do not a 'workshop' make.

    When you're getting the team, clients, users, customers, stakeholders - anyone! - together and you ask them to write their thoughts or some comments on a post-it note, it isn't a workshop.

    It's ONE tool, one task, one process in that workshop.

    What do you then do with those Post-its? Put them not a wall, whiteboard or flip chart and start categorising or sorting? That's another process or task.

    I've got to say, I'm seeing patterns before my eyes! The write-it-and-post-it technique can be limiting, repetitive and very 'same-same'.

    I'm not dissing the approach per se; it works, it's just... overworked.

    Hands up if you've been in a workshop/meeting/conversation/session/thing where you wrote stuff on a Post-it and put it on a board/whiteboard/flipchart/wall/thing?

    We can fall into tired patterns of what a workshop is, or what we can get a team or individuals to do in a workshop. When you want to engage with users, customers, stakeholders, sponsors, clients, you must think and plan what processes you'll use.

    Don't wing it. If you're the facilitator or leader of the meeting or workshop, then it's up to you to plan, think, prepare and map out what processes you'll use - or at least have at hand - to help the team and group move, shift, achieve decide and do.

    Break the Post-it pattern.

    Continue to evolve, adapt and build up your toolkit of 'go-to' processes, tools and activities that you can use with a team.

    Be ready to go where the team needs to go, do what needs to be done to respond to what's happening. (Oh, and it's not about playing 'icebreaker' games either! They're so 1980s.)

    Participation, contribution, collaboration and engagement in workshops needs to be built, ramped up, encouraged and rewarded. That's how you go deep, that's how you get great stuff done.

    So what are you planning? What are you doing and saying? How are you responding?

    This is more powerful than 'Write your idea on a Post-it' x four times in the one workshop.


    A Blueprint for Meetings, Workshops, Conversations

    When you get people together - face to face or via a hookup - you need to make something happen. 

    Is it a briefing or transfer of information?
    Is it a consultative thing - you want to ask some questions and find out what they think.
    Maybe you need to involve them in the design or development of a process, product or service.
    Perhaps it's about collaboration: 'let's work on this thing together'. 
    And sometimes you want them to pick up the ball and run with it, toempower them so that they act and decide.
    Whichever of these you'd like to make happen, you need to start with that in mind. Here's a continuum or scale that can guide you:

    I regularly use these five levels and depths of participation (adapted from the International Association for Public Participation - or IAP2) to guide me in:

    • how to prepare for the gathering,
    • how to set up and design the environment they'll meet in,
    • what processes they'll work through and
    • how to handle the stuff that happens during that meeting.

    What you do as a leader will make a b-i-g difference in how well the group goes towards achieving the outcome. 

    It's not "their fault' or 'up to them'. It's on you. 

    If you've called the meeting, are facilitating or leading it or are responsible for getting the outcome, it really helps to get clear about why they are in the room (or dialled in remotely) and how you'll engage them to make something good happen. 

    Those crusty old days of workshops or conversations to 'discuss, decree and demolish' are gone. That's disengaging and ineffective. 

    Start with this Blueprint and zoom in on the levels that suit the outcome you're after. 

    The meeting, workshop or conversation will be more productive, more engaging and the people who've given their time to be there will oh-so grateful you got this sorted!


    Another way to handle all that talking

    If you've wandered around my website and found many of the resources and templates or read my blog ... you will have seen me 'go on' about my Facilitator 4 Step. 

    When you don't have a structure for a conversation, workshop or meeting, this model can really help you out. It can give the team focus and give you a place to go to guide you through the conversation. 

    Yesterday in a workshop with a team, they wanted to 'workshop' a topic. What do you do? Just open it up and let things go wherever they go? Or follow a structure?

    Well, I did a little of both. I outlined the structure - the Facilitator 4 Step, though I didn't call it that. I said "We'll talk about what we know, the facts... then hear your views and opinions... and then listen out for your ideas and suggestions."

    I created three flip charts with headings for the first of the three steps, facts, opinions, ideas - we weren't doing the 'actions' step at this stage. That would come later. 

    Then I opened up the discussion and just let it go on... and on. 

    As the team talked for the next 20 or 30 minutes or more, I listened and scribed or noted their key points. 

    If they said something that was fact based, I wrote it on the facts flip chart. 

    If they were talking about their views and opinions, that point went on the opinions flip chart. 

    And if they had a suggestion or idea for a solution, I wrote that on the ideas chart. 

    I simply let the conversation go on and on, capturing and sorting as they talked. 

    Yes, I was dancing and jumping from one chart to the next and back again - each time someone talked. This showed so clearly how our thinking and talking jumps from fact, to opinion to idea or solution - in just one sentence!

    It's no wonder teams or groups in conversation can find it difficult to get to actions and commitments when all of this mixed content is happening. 

    The flip charts and my sorting helped them see what they were talking about. It was a very efficient use of time. I didn't interrupt, I just let it go. 

    The end result: they have a categorised capture of their evidence and facts; their opinions and views; their ideas and opportunities. 

    Now they can go and prioritise and commit to action. 

    This is just another way to use a model or structure. You can make the group follow it or you can listen and sort as you go. 

    Try it out at your next meeting, workshop, strategy or planning session. 


    The 9 Elements of Collaboration - explained

    Yes, here they are, the 9 Elements of Collaboration I presented at the International Association of Facilitators conference in March this year. While I spoke about seven 'continents' (it had a global theme after all!) there were an extra two topics I slipped in!

    This visual of the 9 Elements is a real 'go to' for me. I talk through this visual whenever I'm meeting with a client, leader or team who are planning their strategic session, their team day or their 'get everyone on the same page' event. 

    It's much easier to plan out an agenda when they know what they want to achieve, and I can be sure we design a session that's actually built for collaboration. 

    Here's what the 9 elements are all about:

    1. Kick Off : be sure to start the event, session or workshop with some pizzazz and energy. This does not mean a welcome speech from the leader or CEO ! That is not usually energetic - it may be, depending on the leader, but likely not. Kick off with music, an inspiring video, a creative performance or something energising that sets the scene for what this event is all about. I've used improv performers, musicians, drummers, actors... whatever you use, don't ignore the kick off. It's important to start with a bang!

    2. Singular : help people settle in to the day with an activity they can do alone. Perhaps a reflection on what they want to get out of the session, what their expectations are, what they bring to the team, where they are at. This helps those who are slower to 'jump in' to group yee-ha activities. I particularly like using a singular activity because it goes against the over-used "let's all sit in a circle and talk - listening to one person".

    3. Social : OK, now we can mix and mingle and get 'groupy'. It could be a networking activity, a meet your colleagues, a speed connections activity or some improv games. Whatever you do, ease in to the socialising aspects of the event. I never like to throw people in to a 'ok, everyone talk to everyone' activity. It can be a harsh shift from waking up in the morning to being thrust into group stuff. 

    4. 5 and 6.

    Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic : these are the must-have elements to any training, workshops, sessions, conversations. You can't just sit and talk and listen. Get people looking at things, hearing things and doing things. 

    Visual: I'm a huge fan of visual thinking and graphic recording so I'll often provide visual facilitation as a standard part of my facilitation. Here I capture the unfolding story and content of the workshop, giving participants the threads to follow so they'll do better work in the session. But other visuals could be photographs, illustrations, videos, artwork, tangible objects and props. I make sure everyone has the tools for visuals at their tables - post it notes, markers, note books, photo cards...

    Auditory: This is about hearing things - and other people's voices doesn't count! Unless they're singing! Introduce other forms of sound like music, music, music. A participant in a recent workshop said to me "I'd love to come to one of your parties; you have the most diverse music I've ever heard!" Yes, diverse people in the room so I was playing world music, jazz, country & western, pop, classical, blues... and with some teams and groups we trade pre-recorded music for live music. Why not try team drumming? Greg at Rhythm Effect is superb. 

    Kinesthetic: Touching, feeling and doing things is such an important way for many, many people to learn and connect and contribute. It might not be your preference, but then it's not all about you! Be sure to have things for people to do like activities to work on, practical tasks to complete, space to move around in, things to touch and play with (Lego, Play Doh, props and items, tools, abstract objects, costumes, accessories, products... use your imagination)

    And shift it around, shift it up. Go from visual to kinesthetic to singular, to a social auditory activity, back to singular visual... 

    7. Logical: Give the agenda, structure and processes of the day some order and logic. For those who gather and sort information in this way, they'll be looking for the process. Give it to them. The 9 elements of collaboration - that's a logical process. Set up things with some logic, flow, step by step and order. I always start with the agenda on a flip chart - even if they have it written on a page in front of them - then we can tick off the chunks as we go through. Then I find the steps and chunks in the sub-topics so there is logic and process within logic and process. 

    8. Verbal: I address verbal last because it's the thing that gets done the most - too often in fact. You cannot expect people to jump up and down for joy, wanting to collaborate when you hit them with a whole heap of verbal blah blah from the leadership team. Or worse, you make people sit in a circle all day and make them listen to everything everyone else has to say. You have to change it up. You can still talk, just mix it up with the other elements. When I'm providing graphic recording services I get to work alongside facilitators and leaders who are facilitating - there's way too much verbal going on out there. Talk at you, talk about you, trying to talk with you, talk talk. The balance MUST shift so that other elements can be incorporated so you'll engage and inspire and get better outcomes. 

    9. Wrap-Up: When you started strong at the beginning of the day, you opened a loop in people's minds. It's time to finish with a bang too, so that you can close up the loop, link everything together nicely just like a beautifully wrapped gift. Help people make sense of it all. Give the a natural yet obvious conclusion to the event. I shudder and cringe when events run over time and the wrap up, conclusion, next steps and call to action is undercooked and people are left, flat. You must finish with air and inspiration and energy to build commitment and action. Otherwise the big bucks you've invested in getting people there has been diluted. Shame about that. 

    9 Elements of Collaboration - there are certainly more and different things you can do but these are a base, a must-do and a must-think-about.

    Just because you've finally found a date in the diary when everyone's available, don't think that's the most important thing about the day! What you'll do and how you'll help them collaborate is what's important. Give sufficient attention to that and you'll get much higher levels of engagement, deeper levels of commitment and you'll create a momentum that's unstoppable.